In another era, with the demise of anyone as long-lived -- in 'computer years' -- as Windows 98, they might have said 'The king is dead, long live the king!' To be sure, the Windows 98 'king' has been ailing for a long time, and should have been put out of its misery long ago!
Of course, the new 'king', Windows XP, is getting pretty long in the tooth as well, and while the new 'prince' (Windows Vista) is showing promise, it may not live up to Windows XP's reputation for quite some time to come!
I've been an 'early adopter' throughout most of my professional career and through three generations of workstations (from a 120MHz Pentium to an 866MHz Pentium III) I have tried to like Windows 98 -- I really have. But I never found Windows 98 to be particularly stable. In fact, I downgraded a Pentium 120 to Windows 95 before moving to Windows NT 4 rather than put up with the instability of Windows 98.
In 2002, I even upgraded to Windows XP on an under-powered 366MHz 128MB Pentium II system rather than tolerate Windows 98's sluggish performance and overall instability.
In short, I do not understand what all this 'wailing and gnashing of teeth' is about. This announcement has been anticipated since the first time Microsoft tried to withdraw support in January 2004. It's not like any Windows 98 users are being caught with their pants down!
It's been estimated that there are 50 to 70 million users will have to upgrade to Windows XP in order to keep getting security updates. Whether these numbers are in the ballpark or are wildly inflated remains to be seen but I would bet that the majority of those users are either not connected to the Internet or their connections are dial-up connections -- where the security risk is dramatically lower. And, if those end users are anything like the end users I know, their Windows 98 installations are not anywhere near up-to-date anyway.
To be sure, there are those out there asking why they should have to upgrade something that still works -- but they don't really have to. These users have been running Windows 98 since sometime between 1998 and 2001. Which means they have been running Windows 98 for at least five years, and perhaps as many as eight. (Most people don't own a TV that long!) If they have been as conscientious as they should have been, they have been enjoying free security updates over that entire period.
And what exactly is Microsoft asking these users to do? One thing... Microsoft is asking them to spend $100 for a Windows XP Home (SP2) upgrade. That comes out to about $20 per year for security updates since 2001, when Windows XP first shipped.
This is cheap by any measure and any computer manufactured since 2000 is more than capable of running Windows XP so the number of people who have to buy a new computer to run Windows XP is very small indeed -- basically limited to anyone who upgraded from Windows 95 in 1998 or who owns a sub-300MHz system. Some may want to add memory but PC133 memory is VERY INEXPENSIVE.
Yes, I know that the Linux zealots will remind me that Linux is a 'free' alternative to Windows XP but anyone still running Windows 98 doesn't have the stomach for installing their own OS and Linux support is anything but robust for the uninitiated.
It's time for Windows 98 users to stop their whining and move on -- upgrade or not! Microsoft has more than kept up their end of the bargain!